‘Silly’ victims

‘Silly’ victims

…women dig deep to justify why husbands should beat them

LERIBE – AS Lesotho struggles to end domestic abuse and gender-based violence, male perpetrators are finding an unlikely defender for their actions – women. Despite being the main victims of domestic abuse and gender-based violence, some women are still finding words and actions to justify why they should be at the receiving end of violence by their husbands and partners.

At a screening of a film documenting gender based violence, some women shared horrifying stories of how they have endured years of abuse.
Yet, at the same event, some women sought to justify the brutal actions of men.
After 58-year-old ’Mamolato Lemao, a victim of domestic violence, shared a heart rending story, some of her age mates rallied to explain why women at times “deserved” to be beaten up by their men.

Asked if it was right for men to beat their wives, many answered in the affirmative.
“As women we are very silly, very annoying and very much irritating to men. So when a woman has done wrong it is right to put sense into her by beating her up,” said a granny at the screening of the film.

“Women are children, like every child they have to be disciplined,” another chipped in.
Despite massive anti-domestic violence campaigns, many local women still think men have a right to beat their wives, according to studies.
The Lesotho Demographic Health Survey of 2014 reported that 33 percent of women and 40 percent of men said a husband is justified in beating his wife in certain circumstances.

A 2013 Gender Links Violence Against Women baseline study revealed that 86 percent of women in Lesotho have experienced some form of violence at least once in their lifetime.
The study by Gender Links found that 62 percent of women experienced violence at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends, while 37 percent of men perpetrated intimate partner violence.

’Manteboheleng Mabetha, Gender Links Lesotho country manager, said Lesotho is signatory to and has ratified the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development adopted by heads of states and governments in August 2008.
“The levels of gender based violence in Lesotho are nowhere close to being reduced, at least not by half,” Mabetha said.
Mabetha said a major gap in addressing violence against women in Lesotho has been the absence of domestic violence legislation. Perceptions also played a big role, she said.

“Violence against women among Basotho is still seen as a private matter, and most women do not report it,” she said.
“This is because women are made to believe that the man is the head of the house and that they must obey their husbands at all times. Women believe a husband has a right to control the wife at all times,” she said.
In the few cases that are reported, the police try to make peace between the victim and the husband.
According to the Gender Links study, only five percent of women who reported cases of abuse managed to get the police to open a docket against perpetrators.

“Physical violence is also very common. Many women in Lesotho experience slapping, pushing, shoving and hitting with objects,” Mabetha said.
“Women who are abused sustain serious injuries and in some cases die,” she said.
Most women who have experienced physical violence seek medical assistance when they have been hurt and many do not disclose that the cause of their injuries were their partners.

“It is common to hear a colleague or a friend that has been beaten by the partner saying that she has been hit by the door, the fridge, the table and so on, when the blue eye has been caused by the man’s fist,” Mabetha said. “When the woman is hit by her husband she is made to believe that she has done something wrong and that the husband was reprimanding her.” She said some women even viewed being beaten by the husband “as a sign that the husband dearly cares for her”.

Rose Moremoholo

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